A music teacher at a TK–8 school in San José had a history of complaints roughly a decade before he was criminally charged with sexually abusing students last year, records obtained by KQED show.
Israel Santiago, 43, was arrested in November under suspicion of sexually abusing 10 students beginning in 2021 at Adelante Dual Language Academy. He faces 12 charges, including multiple counts of molestation and lewd acts on a child by force.
Last year was not the first time a student reported being inappropriately touched by Santiago, according to the records provided by the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District in response to a Public Records Act request.
Students at two other schools in the district, Sheppard Middle School and Painter Elementary, had reported concerns about Santiago’s behavior to school staff from 2012 through 2014, records show. The district did not provide records of any complaints made to the school in the years that followed.
One student said Santiago put his hand on her back and rubbed her back while he praised her. Another said Santiago repeatedly hugged her, asked her for hugs and “picked her up, putting his arms under her legs and carrying her.”
“Mr. Santiago has failed to practice good judgment regarding physical contact with students, in particular, females, and I find that conduct to be inappropriate and unprofessional,” former Sheppard Middle School Principal Imee Almazan wrote at the conclusion of a personnel investigation in 2014.
Alum Rock Union Elementary School District didn’t fire Santiago in 2014, despite the investigation documenting multiple complaints of Santiago inappropriately touching students after repeated warnings.
Instead, the district issued a letter of reprimand, and determined he should be transferred to another school in the district.